The Walters Art Museum
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410-547-9000, ext. 277

Beasts on Parchment: Picturing Animals in Medieval Manuscripts

November 6, 2010–February 6, 2011

The Walters Art Museum
600 North Charles Street
Baltimore, MD 21201

Monkeys trapping finches with nets, foxes tricking birds with honeyed words, hybrid creatures and dragons; do not be surprised if you come face to face with such creatures turning the pages of a medieval book from the Walters’ manuscript collection. Animals have always fascinated people, and they can be found in medieval books in many places and in many guises.

The exhibition Beasts on Parchment: Picturing Animals in Medieval Manuscripts looks at the ways in which medieval people perceived animals. Beasts served as vehicles for religious allegory and moral instruction, and can be found both in full page miniatures as well as populating beautifully illuminated borders. They were imaginatively created as inhabitants of unknown lands, and of heaven and hell. Sometimes frightening, often amusing, medieval portrayals of the animal kingdom served to entertain as well as instruct, and they still do today.

Drawn entirely from the rich collection of the Walters Art Museum, the exhibition features manuscripts, rare books and medieval woodcuts. It takes the visitor on an entertaining path populated by animals, real and imagined, in books of scripture, in fables and in encyclopedias of the world. The show will offer to visitors of all ages not only a manuscript menagerie, but also a window onto the values and concerns of medieval society.

Hours are Wednesday–Sunday, 10 a.m.–5 p.m. The museum is closed on Mondays and Tuesdays


Dragons Battling (detail), Book of Hours, Rouen, ca. 1480, parchment, ink, paint and gold, acquired by Henry Walters before 1931, The Walters Art Museum, Baltimore (W.233, fol. 93r)

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